by Brian Malin; Forewords by Simon Taylor and Alan Staniforth
2021 review by Peter McFadyen
Although they were born 18 years apart, Derek Buckler and Colin Chapman were contemporaries when it came to designing and building ground-breaking sports cars in the late 1940s and early ’50s. They had much in common. Both were innovators, especially in areas of chassis design and improving the handling characteristics of their cars. Both founded successful companies and both died relatively young, Chapman in December, 1982, at the age of 54, and Buckler in 1964 at just 53 years of age. Yet, while Chapman’s Lotus went on to achieve worldwide fame, the name Buckler remains comparatively little known.
Special building was popular in the 1950s, mostly using ‘donor’ chassis from Austin 7 or Ford or simple ‘ladder’ frames but Buckler offered a multi-tubular space frame which was both stronger and lighter and, moreover, available in different models to suit different applications. He was also always ready to adapt his products to his customers’ requirements. In all of this, Buckler’s aim was to provide the impecunious enthusiast with a versatile sporting vehicle which could be used as daily transport during the week and, at weekends, in a wide range of motor sporting events from trials and driving tests to out and out racing. Often, however, the resulting Special would carry a name that concealed the Buckler contribution and a major part of the significance of Malin’s book and the vast amount of painstaking research put into it by its author is that much of that contribution is now revealed.
Buckler also, of course, made a range of complete cars starting with the versatile Mk5 and 6 and going on to encompass DD1 and DD2 with De Dion rear ends and the BB100 with backbone chassis introduced considerably before Lotus’s Elan and their other similarly based models. When karting became popular in the early 1960s, Buckler’s space frame technology found another application for which it was ideal and it became a major player in this burgeoning branch of motor sport. Buckler was also successful with its range of accessories including engine and transmission components and most notably its much admired close-ratio gears.
Brian Malin, the author, first owned a Buckler car in the 1970s and today competes in his Mk 5 in hill climbs and other events. He is an active member of the Buckler Register as well as the British Historic Kart Club and is often to be seen racing or demonstrating his Buckler kart so he is well placed to compile this comprehensive history of all things Buckler. It was first made available in loose-leaf form as long ago as 1990 but this is its first publication as a fully-fledged book, revised, updated and with additional material. Chassis design guru – and Buckler owner – the late Alan Staniforth provided the original foreword and this has been updated and included along with a new foreword by commentator and doyen of motor sport journalists, Simon Taylor.
The fourteen chapters begin with ‘Buckler and the Company’, cover the production and racing cars with some individual histories, the Buckler accessories including one chapter on the badges alone, overseas distribution – New Zealand was a particularly strong market for Buckler – and a fascinating section on the car advertisements before going on to cover the kart story in similar detail. The same number of appendices include reproductions of road tests, articles written by Derek Buckler, specifications of close-ratio gears and Buckler-tuned Ford engines, kart track tests and even one on Buckler letterheads. Malin’s work is truly encyclopaedic and therefore remarkable value for money not just as a reference on the Buckler marque but for its entertaining insight into the world of amateur motor sport of its time. The hundreds of illustrations range from reproductions of high quality contemporary and recent photographs to some admittedly lower quality originals, some of them obviously retouched to improve clarity, whose inclusion is well justified for their essential contribution to the Buckler story.
Brian Malin is to be congratulated for his perseverance in finally bringing to publication a book which is, to all intents and purposes, the full Buckler story.
Publisher: Greyhound Self Publishing. Available from Aspect Design Ltd, email@example.com
Price: £40.00 plus p&p. Hardback (11½ by 8¼ in), 310 pages, copiously illustrated in colour and b&w